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Yasay reiterates: Duterte will not deviate from tribunal ruling on South China Sea

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the Filipino community in Singapore as they listen and cheer during his speech on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. AP/Wong Maye-E

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' top diplomat assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte will not deviate from the ruling of an arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea dispute despite revitalizing bilateral ties with China.

Duterte earlier said that he will "set aside" the milestone ruling to mend relations with China that grew hostile over the territorial disputes.

"In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China," Duterte said.

READ: Duterte says he'll set aside sea feud ruling against China

On the other hand, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. stressed that the Philippine government adheres to the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on the disputed waters.

"I also wish to reiterate what the President has stated in the past that he will not deviate from the four corners of the ruling," Yasay said in a statement released Monday.

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Last July, the arbitral tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) when it started building artificial islands in the South China Sea.

The tribunal also concluded that China's nine-dash line claim over the contested waters does not have a legal basis.

Yasay stressed that the country is a state party to the 1982 UNCLOS and that the Philippine Constitution accepts the principles in the treaty as part of national law.

"As such, the Philippines will respect its rights and responsibilities under these treaties, including those rights recently reaffirmed by the July 12th ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea," Yasay said.

He noted that the Philippine government will continue to strengthen bilateral ties with China until it has reached a "trust level" which will allow them to discuss the maritime dispute.

"This we will continue to do for the foreseeable future, until such time that we achieve a trust level that will allow us to discuss the more sensitive issues in our bilateral relations," the Foreign Affairs chief said.

RELATED: The verdict: Philippines wins arbitration case vs China

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